Even a mild degree of hyperactivity in a child can cause a lot of disruption, both at home and in school. When a child has severe hyperactivity, this is medically recognized as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
As the name suggests, there are two aspects to ADHD: difficulty in concentration and hyperactivity. These are present in differing degrees. Boys are more likely to be overactive, and so are noticed. In girls, poor concentration may dominate, so despite the presence of learning difficulties the diagnosis may be less obvious. The condition often resolves toward late adolescence, but it may persist into adult life.
Cause of hyperactivity
The exact cause of hyperactivity is unclear, and many factors have been implicated in the condition, including difficult births and nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy and early infancy. In some cases there is probably also an inherited predisposition, so someone who was affected in childhood may find they encounter the problem again as a parent.
Food intolerance may also be a cause, as many children improve with dietary changes. Even when the hyperactivity is sufficiently severe for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, research suggests that about a quarter or more of children with ADHD behave normally when they eat a diet that excludes food to which they are intolerant. In addition, a number of others improve enough to allow them to respond better to psychological treatment.
Around 3,000 additives are present in modern foodstuffs and medicines. They preserve food, ensuring safety and extended shelf life, and enhance flavor and appearance. To avoid them, you need to check all food labels and inquire about the constituents of medicines. On European packages foods, you may find additives identified by “E” numbers, to identify those approved by the European community.
Virtually any additive can cause symptoms in s susceptible person. The commonest additive culprits are:
Natural additives which include substances that is most likely to cause food intolerance, such as thickeners from wheat or corn and natural sweeteners/syrup from corn, beet and sugar cane. Both are found in liquid medicines and even tablets. Albumen usually comes from eggs.
Flavorings – the most notorious flavoring additive is monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can cause Chinese restaurant syndrome (flushing, chest tightness and pain, headache and fainting)
Antioxidant preservatives – these prevent fats from going rancid, but they can also trigger asthma and urticaria.
Sulfite preservatives – these occur naturally when yeast ferments, but may be added to beer, wine, and fruit juice, or used in the preparation of seafood, gelatin, dehydrated vegetables, pickles, preserved meats, sausages, fruit salads, dried fruits, and green salads, which are sprayed with sulfite preservatives to preserve freshness in salad bars and restaurants. They can trigger asthma, rhinitis and urticaria.
Nitrite and nitrate preservatives – these stabilize the color of cooked meats, including ham and bacon, and cheese. It can trigger urticaria and headaches.
Benzoate preservatives – these are used in fruit syrup, carbonated drinks, some vegetables and shellfish. It can occur naturally in honey and cranberries. It often implicated in ADHD. It can cause urticaria, and possibly eczema and asthma. These preservatives may affect people who are sensitive to aspirin and tartrazine.
Food coloring – azo dyes – these are found in many foods and medicines. They can be broken down in the gut to form amines. It can cause asthma, urticaria, behavior disturbances, hyperactivity and migraine.
What you can do to overcome hyperactivity
- Begin by keeping a food, mood and symptom diary to help you identify possible trigger foods and chemicals
- Avoid food additives as these are the most common triggers for hyperactivity behavior. Use plain white toothpaste, and avoid gel toothpaste, as this contains preservatives
- Eat a healthful diet to avoid swings in the level of sugar in your blood
- The next stage for adults is the diet plan. For a child, discuss this approach with your doctor first, as you may need the help of a dietitian to ensure that the diet is adequate for growth
- Discuss other treatments that might benefit hyperactivity with your doctor. These include behavioral therapy and medication
- Homeopathy can sometimes be beneficial, but you will need to consult a qualified practitioner, preferably one who is also a doctor.